And it came to pass at midnight, that the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead.
So children die. The casualties of war. The casualties of every war. The weakest. The ones whose death is most hurtful to the living.
5000 children a month dying in Iraq. It's not really fathomable, is it? It's the kind of number which is simply too great to take account of. I say, "September is almost over, and in Iraq, 5000 children have died this month. There were 6000 people who died in the World Trade Center on September 11, and that was a horrendous crime. And this month, 5000 children died in Iraq. And last month, too. And the one before that. And so on, back for years. 5000 children each month, for years. And next month, too. While we recover from our grief, another 5000 children will die in Iraq." And what is your reaction, and how much will you grieve for them?
I will grieve for them.
It's not really fathomable, so let me try to make it more so. Let's say that it's not 5000, for 5000 is a big number, too big to grasp. Let's say that in each village in Iraq, one child per month dies as a direct result of the sanctions we've imposed upon them. Ok, one child. What does that mean? How many children do you know? Imagine that this month, one of those children has died. Now imagine that next month, one more of those children will die. How much grief and anger would you personally feel if one child you knew were to die, each and every month. Imagine that it were less, even. Imagine that one child you knew were to die merely each six months. How many children do you know who have died this year? How many children have you ever known who have died?
The death of a child is a horrible thing. We keep hearing that a million children have died in Iraq as the results of the sanctions, and it is so easy to shrug off. An exaggeration. An unavoidable circumstance. A necessary sacrifice. But if I were to say to you that for the benefit of humanity, one child you knew was to die of starvation… One single child who you personally knew… Would the sacrifice then be worth it? Would you be so willing to turn your head, to shake your head, to walk away in silence?
Because of the sanctions in Iraq, an entire population must watch its children die.
On September 11, over 6000 people were killed, and the country responded with outrage. Cries were immediately heard for vengeance, for death and destruction, for missiles, for violent deaths. Most of those crying out for retaliation shrugged aside the question of civilian casualties. So what if an Afghani civilian dies? An unavoidable circumstance. A necessary sacrifice. Bullshit. They're already dying. They've been dying for decades, and the average American couldn't care less. Implicitly, most of those who live in this country believe that the life of an American is worth more than the life of a person of any other nation in the world. And I'm supposed to be proud to be an American. I'm supposed to wave my flag and follow my leader, because I've been affronted, because my life is worth more than an Afghani child starving in the desert? Bullshit. I am not that kind of American. In fact, I would rather be a starving Afghani than that kind of American. I care more for the people starving in the desert than I do for those screaming for vengeance. My empathy goes to the victims of the world, not the rabid murderers screaming for blood.
Already, Afghani civilians are dying. Over a million refugees already. Where will they go? What will they eat? How will they deal with the terror our rhetoric of vengeance has unleashed upon them?
Today, I am afraid of biological terrorism. Every morning, when I read my news alerts, I cringe in anticipation of the words announcing a new attack. I keep seeing the number 3 million. In 1993 (I think that's when it was), simulations suggested that anthrax released over Washington D.C. would kill up to 3 million people. If such a thing happens, I am guaranteed to be one of the casualties. So that frightens me. But it's unlikely to happen. Not impossible, but unlikely. The skies over Washington are, for the time being at least, more secure than they've ever been. Yesterday, a Canadian airplane was escorted by two F-16s (or maybe F-15s) to the ground, because someone on the plane refused to extinguish a cigarette. The sky is secure for now. I'm not going to die of anthrax.
And while I worry about something so unlikely to occur, there are Afghanis, millions of Afghanis, who live in fear of bombs which are very likely to fall. The Afghani who cringes at every sound is not being paranoid. The Afghani who wonders if she or he will ever eat again is not being paranoid. I go about my life with a bit more fear than I did several weeks ago, but I will probably not be killed. An Afghani civilian, on the other hand, will most likely die.
And who will know about it? Who will read the casualty lists of Afghani civilians who die, whether from bombs or starvation? And who will care? Will you? Will you sit up at night lighting candles for the child whose home is destroyed by bombs? Will you sit up at night praying for the child whose life is a constant flight from fear to fear? Will you sit up and worry about the child whose body is swollen with disease, whose eyes are hollow with terror, whose stomach is empty day upon day upon day? Imagining that child (_those_ children, for there are, literally, millions of them) gives me more terror than anything that could possibly happen to me. I've experienced more happiness and comfort and security during the past five minutes than those million or more children will ever experience again for the remaining duration of their lives.
And I'm supposed to wave my flag and feel proud to be an American? As long as there are children dying of starvation in the world, I will never feel any pride.